$70 Per week Grocery Budget: The Good, the Bad, and the Tasty

The month of June is coming to a close, and I have successfully completed my minimalist money challenge to only spend $70 on groceries each week.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1- Grocery shopping every week is HARD. 

Up until this week, my husband and I only had one car to share between the two of us. His work schedule is different almost every day, and so planning times to go grocery shopping every single week was pretty difficult. It was also tough brining my daughter with, since I had to be very meticulous in calculating the prices and sticking to a list. It was hard to be so distracted while shopping, and I know the trips weren’t quite as enjoyable for her.

I think that sticking to a budget is doable, but I might have to go grocery shopping for two week stints at a time. This way, I’m not having to drag my baby to the store each week, and I can save myself some stress in the meantime.

2- While I’m not a coupon-clipper, shopping the sales is totally worth it.

I usually wouldn’t pay attention to sales at all. I’d just stick to my list or throw whatever looked good in the cart, regardless of the price. But I found that shopping the sales at Aldi was very helpful in allowing me to stick to my budget. It also made me try some things I normally wouldn’t try, and that leads me to my next point…

3- I can form my meal plans around what I can afford, rather than try to afford all I want to meal plan.

I would go to the store with a rough list that was roughly priced out, but if I saw sale items, I would alter my list. In doing this, my meal plans would usually get bungled. But this month I learned that I can create my meal plans around what I can afford within the budget, instead of just buying things I want to make, which may or may not be the best price at the time. This made me go a little out of my comfort zone and try some new recipes and combinations of foods. I think I’ll probably stick to this method of meal planning because it’s helpful to the wallet, and it’s not too much trouble for me to do. It also limits my options so I don’t get too carried away planning out crazy-intricate meals that are probably unrealistic to make anyway.

4- Rationing snacks is very helpful in preserving their “life” for  the week.

I came up with a system to ration snack items so that they lasted more than one week. This way, I wasn’t always having to buy Lara bars, cashews, and veggie straws at every single trip to the store. I packaged the dried fruit and bars so that only what we could eat for the week was set out in the pantry, and I did the same with the chips and crackers and other items that usually go fast. Then I hid the rest in a basket up high on the shelf that was clearly off limits. This way, nothing got devoured in too short a time.

I actually started doing this before this month-long challenge, but I found it to be very helpful for June as well. Some things were still weekly purchases (like OJ and spinach), but this helped me save money and helped get our snacking a little more under control. I’ll be keeping this up for sure.

Here are some pictures of the great deals I found at Hope for Joliet (read more here):

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Here are some of my family’s favorite meals I made this month:

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And there you have it folks! That’s what I learned on my month of strict grocery budgeting. I hope you’ve enjoyed this adventure and have been challenged to save some pennies while you shop for your family’s food.

 

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June Minimalist Money Challenge: The first 2 weeks

It’s been two weeks of grocery shopping with a $70 per week limit. If you’re new to my version of this challenge, check out my last post for a quick overview.

My first grocery shopping trip totaled to $69.98. I cut it that close. I am not kidding.

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Reusable grocery bags are a must for trips to Aldi. And no, that blue bottle of window wiper fluid was not included in our trip…

It was a bit longer of a trip than I usually like to take with my 15 month-old daughter, as I had to write down the prices, add up the total, calculate sales tax, and put some items back so as to keep within our budget. But we left the store with four cloth bags full to the brim, and one giant watermelon that was on sale. And Esther still had some of her veggie straws left to munch on during the drive home. I’d say it was a success.

 

You can sort of see some of the sales on the meat are marked (those red stickers in the first photo say “$1 off” or “$2 off”). Watermelon, blueberries, spinach, and asparagus were also on sale.

While I didn’t document my second week of groceries, I did only spend $68.40, and was pretty pleased with how many leftover items we still could use from the first week.

I’ll be sure to snap some photos this week, but some of the meals we made these past 2 weeks were as follows:

For Breakfast: Veggie frittata, peanut butter apple oatmeal, eggs over baked potato and leftover roasted veggies, toast with peanut butter and banana, hard boiled eggs with avacados.

For Lunch: Salami spinach tomato wraps with watermelon, mango chicken panini’s with carrot sticks, ramen noodles with peas, carrots, green beans, and corn, leftover pulled pork on top of sweet potatoes and veggies, apple and swiss curry panini’s.

For Dinner: Blueberry waffles, bacon, and over-easy eggs (yes, breakfast for dinner is amazing), bacon wrapped steaks on the grill with roasted asparagus and macaroni, homemade pepperoni and veggie pizza, pulled pork with potato wedges and steamed broccoli, brats with potato wedges and roasted veggies, shepherd’s pie with watermelon, ground turkey tacos with avocado, salsa, black beans, and roasted onions and peppers.

You guys. These are pretty amazing meals right here! I could really get used to this. So far I’m finding that shopping with this type of budget just takes a little more effort, planning, and flexibility in meals.

I’ll share more of the benefits and drawbacks when I can look back on the entire month, but so far so good!

Tomorrow I’m headed with my daughter and best friend to Hope for Joliet, a location where food items that are almost past the sell-by date are sold for a fraction of the price, and ripe produce is literally GIVEN away. I have no idea what things will be there, so I’ll have to be pretty flexible in what I plan for this next week’s meals. But I do still have leftover frozen chicken, ground beef, some cauliflower, and a bunch of other things I can use as a base for a few meals.

Next week I am also cooking for 10 college students, so my shopping may include extra so as to feed those hungry mouths (I will be reimbursed for this, so it will not be included in the $70 budget). I am also going to make a meal for my friend who just had a baby! This will be included in the $70 budget.

I’m excited to do more documenting of meals and of our shopping excursion tomorrow! Stay tuned!

Let It Be Enough: the prayer of a minimalist

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A few years ago, I started the practice of a breath prayer, very similar to the contemplative practice of centering prayer, if you are familiar.

It includes a name for God that is especially meaningful to me at a specific time, and then a very simple request for something that I can only receive from Him.

Some of my most common breath prayers over the years have been ones like these (so you get an idea of what I’m talking about):

“Prince of Peace, comfort me.”

“Lord of Hosts, be my defender.”

“God of the universe, keep me present.”

“God who sees me, remind me I am loved.”

In my minimalist journey, the simplicity of these prayers has been essential. They focus me throughout the day and allow me to connect with God without having to have this intricate, hour-and-a-half-long “quiet time”. They also have helped me get through those early stages of having a newborn who nurses every hour. I remember being up at 3am with Esther, and praying a breath prayer over and over as I nursed and bounced her back to sleep. I couldn’t think of much else to do or say, but having a simple heart-felt prayer truly centered me during those hard moments of exhaustion.

And now, I find myself reflecting on these prayers as part of my journey towards minimalism. See, I’ve recently gotten into another kick of purging things. It’s been so good to simplify again. And being able to get rid of the access clutter in my life has helped me address some other areas of cluttered baggage, worry, and stress that I don’t really need.

I feel myself reawakening as I continue to let go of physical things. It’s almost like…since I can let go of these material possessions, then I can more easily let go of the other heavy burdens.

I can let go of the expectation for my parents to give me only what God can give me. I can let their best efforts and their love be enough.

I can also let go of the expectation for my husband to give me only what God can give me. I can let his love, leadership, and overall character be enough.

I can let go of the expectation for myself to be perfect as only God is. I can let my personality, my capabilities–really, myself be enough.

I can let go of the expectation for this life I’m living to be picture perfect and neat, or exciting and adventurous 24/7. I can embrace the chaos or the monotony or the less-than ideal circumstances, and let this beautiful life that God has given me be enough.

And I see now that God has given me another centering prayer to say in one breath– another breath prayer: “Be Enough.”

Or perhaps, “Let it (him/her/me/them) be enough”.

It is not a command to be good, kind, cool, pretty, sexy, pure, clean, happy, or whatever else enough. It is an invitation to let each moment, each person, each item in my home, each piece of food I consume, each word I say, each action, and each situation God brings me— to let all of it be enough.

That is contentment.

And in my quest for minimalism, I realize that it is not about creating a certain aesthetic or getting rid of things just for the sake of being less cluttered. It is a quest for contentment with what I have, and actually requiring less to be content in the first place.

To allow my possessions to be enough.

To allow a simple schedule to be enough.

To be content enough not to “buy” into the message that I am what I have.

The truth is, I am enough. I can, through Christ, be enough.

Today, like all days, I need to breathe this prayer in and out each moment.

Let my milk supply be enough. Let the babysitter’s care for Essie be enough. Let the sleep I end up getting be enough. Let the training for the 10K I get done be enough. Let the snacks I bring to MOPS be enough. Let the time Esther takes to walk be enough. Let the money my husband makes be enough. Let the groceries I purchased this week be enough. Let my attempts to fill our CRU table be enough…. 

All of these are enough ultimately because only you, Jesus, are enough.

You hold all things together. You make all things enough.

What Minimalism Isn’t (to me)

It’s been about a year now since I began my minimalist journey– or rather, my wannabe-minimalist journey. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff, mostly clothes, and I’ve reworked a lot of my schedule to reflect a more simplified … Continue reading

“So what do you do?”: on work, Millennials, and identity

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It’s been well over a year now. I haven’t been a CPS teacher since June of 2015. It seems almost impossible, when I think of that young idealistic teacher setting her sights on her newly decorated classroom, nervously awaiting the first wave of Freshman to enter in and take their seats.

That girl was going to change the world. Despite all odds, she was going to stick with it and be strong. This was what she was made to do.

… Okay, so maybe I never really felt like that. But that’s what you think you feel when you’re a newly graduated education major about to become educator. You just assume that stereo-typical, overly-idealistic, “Freedom-Writers“-esque attitude that may or may not be around at the end of the first semester. You just do. Because, if you don’t, it is way too easy to admit that you’re discouraged already and are hoping and praying no one notices that you have no idea what you’re doing. And also because, every other young new-hire in urban education acts like they feel this way, so, I mean, what real choice do you have? So you convince yourself that you are going to change the world, one student at a time, and you put on your game face and you assume this attitude as who you are.

What a mistake I made in doing this. 

Because three years later, when I find myself utterly hating my job and myself, and feeling completely ineffective and drained, I decide it’s time for teaching and me to part ways. Yes, it’s only been three years. But I’ve been in romantic relationships for less time than that before I realized it wasn’t meant to be either. So, there.

But now that I am no longer Hilary Swank, the dedicated teacher who is willing to give up her entire personal life in order to reach the “unteachable”, who am I? And why did I place my identity in such a fragile place as a 22-year-old hoping for the best in a toxic work environment with little to no resources or support?

I don’t think I am alone in this. I hope not. Because then this blog post is solely for my own benefit, which I guess is fine…

The Millennial generation, of which I am a part of, often gets a bad rap for being socially inept, obscenely selfish, and unable to hold down a job for more than a few years, much less have a successful longstanding career. Now, believe me, I could write an entire blog post on why I think this reputation has come about, and my response to it, but I’ll save that for another time.

I will say though, that after being laid off every single year I worked as a public school teacher, I was only able to successfully be rehired each time (sometimes the only rehire in the entire school), by working long hours, volunteering to lead professional development, obtaining outstanding evaluations, and sufficiently increasing my student’s test scores. I was able to successfully make myself invaluable to my Principal and co-workers, and I hardly think I could have been rehired each year without some level of social skills, strong work ethic, and an inexhaustible desire to keep my position. Just sayin’.

But the reason I mention the whole Millennial thing is because I think this reputation (specifically about the job/career piece) stems more from the changing times than from a character flaw spreading across the entire generation–which oddly includes 19-year-olds all the way to 39-year-olds.

According to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker today will stay at one job for an average of only 4.4 years. And according to a recent survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers, 91% of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for even less than that: three years. This means that most men and women of this age group will have 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their entire working lives. But this is due more to things like an unstable economy and technology replacing workers than to an entire generation of fickle people who can’t make up their mind about what they want to do with their lives… which is sort of how I feel, but which I don’t think is the norm.

This intrigues me for a number of reasons:

  • 1.) I have found that many people’s response to my 3-year “career” as a teacher is mixed. Upon examination of the different reactions, many people within my generational age group (20-something Millennials), seem to totally get it, while the majority of retired people (of the Baby Boomer generation) seem to view my short-lived career as puzzling, even if they act extremely polite about it all.
  • 2.) I have always been told that job instability on a resume could cost one a future job. From what I understand, “chronic job-hoppers” are often screened out, and recruiters instead seek prospective employees who seem to offer longevity.
  • 3.) From my limited experience, and from a bit of research, the average person gains a sense of identity from their work. The question we almost always ask a new acquaintance at a party is “so what do you do?”, meaning not “what hobbies do you have that make you happy?”, or”what do you like to do for fun?”, or even “what is your mission in life?”. No, this question invariably means “what is your job?”, which places a lot of importance on what we choose to do to make a living, rather than how we choose to live. I find this interesting coming from a generation that will ultimately answer this question of “what do you do?”, 15-20 different ways throughout their working life.

Okay so, that’s the end of the statistics and research part of this post. Back to the point.

I have been mulling over this whole  “identity thing” for a while now– really, ever since I quit my job last year. What are the elements that go into shaping who we are, and how is who we are perceived differently by different people, and do those different perceptions impact our identity?

As a Christian, I often remind myself that my identity is in Christ. However, I believe that God made each of His children to have unique characteristics and purpose, despite our commonality of contentment with our lives through His will. I know that I personally have discovered more of my true identity as I draw nearer to God, which I have done quite a lot since last year. So, although I know that my mission is the same as other Christ-followers in helping to bring God’s Kingdom here on earth, I know that God has equipped me to do this in a way that is true to my identity, and which will not be the same as every other Christian.

As a Millennial who has accepted the fact that job-hopping is probably unavoidably in my future, I am seeking ways to define myself verbally to others so that more of myself is revealed rather than simply what my job happens to be at that particular time. I know I am viewed differently now that I do no answer the question “so, what do you do?” with “I’m a High School teacher in the inner city”, although I do not think the core of who I truly am has changed much at all. How one makes money at a particular season in life, is not always an accurate reflection on who they are.

All this is rather complicated. And I find that it is made further complex by this new season in life that I now find myself approaching currently.

You see, I found out in June that I am pregnant. And since then I have had this vacillating sense of what this means about my identity, as if the other stuff wasn’t enough to think about.

Don’t get me wrong! I am extremely happy and utterly ecstatic about this news! The baby was planned, and my husband and I are over-the-moon-excited. This is what we want. And yet, it’s difficult to imagine, or rather, realize, that my identity is now shifting due to another living being occupying my body. Already, this little creature is impacting who I am–what I eat, what I (don’t) drink, how often I eat, sleep, and pee, and what limitations my body has, even down to what positions I can comfortably sleep! These things are also not who I am, but I’m sure they effect other’s perception of me, and I know I personally am starting to see myself differently: as not simply a woman or even a wife, but as a mother.

Side note: this is totally the first time we will be sharing this news publicly online (for those that actually read this far), so please forgive the lack of cute announcement photos or “bump pics”– that’s just not our thing.

Upon reflection of the loss of my “career” as a teacher, the realization that my elder Baby Boomer friends and relatives  probably won’t fully understand the generation I was born into, and this growing child inside me, slowly becoming more and more a reality that impacts the way I do life, I guess the question I am really wrestling with is this: how do I apply a minimalist ideology to my ever-shifting and complex identity?

We live in a world where who we are is presented in so many public ways. To some extent, we can even control the public perception of ourselves by way of facebook, linkedin, “about me” sections in blogs, and other social media outlets. And sometimes these things do truly reflect our true selves. But I believe it also over-simplifies our identity. Which makes me wonder if having a minimalist approach to defining my identity is even realistic or possible.

Perhaps this continuous exploring, changing, and figuring out of one’s identity is simply a part of our work as people living in a complex and changing world. Perhaps finding our calling is more about finding the common thread in our motivation for life rather than what our work entails in the moment–public school teacher, fitness instructor, or stay-at-home-mom. Perhaps it’s less about saying nice phrases like, “my identity is in Jesus” and more about figuring out how God made us, so we can understand what that truly looks like in real life.

So when someone asks me that question, “so, what do you do?”, I think I’ll respond with something, well, not so minimal. Something like,

What do I do? I wake up every morning praying that I can figure out who I am so that I can live the way I will be most successful at bringing knowledge of Jesus Christ into people’s hearts. I try to eat healthy so that my baby can grow strong and develop good eyesight and a taste for a variety of foods, while at the same time, making sure I don’t throw up at Praise Dance rehearsal. I blog, but not as often as I would like, because I’m trying to balance sleeping 8-9 hours a day and helping my husband with his career, which often means hardcore napping, but also filming random auditions or promo videos at moment’s notice, or faxing in music contracts or mailing out posters in time for upcoming shows. I thought I was going to be a teacher for my whole life, but now I’m content with teaching fitness classes and preparing to be a stay-at-home mom in the not-so-distant future, and maybe homeschooling our kids–who knows!? I hang out at Starbucks and work on my book, I make color-coded lists and meal plans in my passion planner, I do my BSF lesson every morning, I go to MOPS on Tuesday mornings, and recently I started swimming laps since I can’t run while I’m pregnant. I do a lot of stuff, actually, and hopefully some of those things will give you an idea about who I am. But mostly, I just hope that you can be courageous enough to know that your identity is not always defined by what you do, especially what you do for a living, because it’s taken me a while to come to this conclusion, and I’m still shedding so much of who I thought I was in order to see who I truly am. 

But…that’s not really my initial idea of a “minimalist answer”. However, I do think it’s probably more genuine in reflecting my thoughts and feelings towards the question. And who knows? Maybe it will let people know what I actually do.

That was the question in the first place, right?

5 Ways to be a Minimalist on your Smartphone

Today’s technology is incredible. We can communicate so easily and share ideas, photos, videos, and art with countless people via the internet, social media, or even just email or text messaging. That said, our smartphones can be powerful tools in … Continue reading

Make Over Your Mornings: Before Bed Ritual

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Photo Credit: sucess.com

Making the most of your mornings starts the night before.  I recently shared this on my facebook page after I had just finalized my morning prep before going to sleep.

First of all, we need to know why it’s important to make the most of our mornings.

In “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast”, Laura Vanderkam explains that mornings kick-start the rest of our day. How we spend our mornings usually set us up for great productivity during our day, or a poor use of time and resources. If we roll out of bed after hitting the snooze button ten times, trudge into the kitchen to find it’s a mess from the night before, and then glance at the clock, realizing we only have 30 minutes before we have to be clocked in at the office…. chances are we are starting the day off hurried, frazzled, and without a clear direction.

But, if we make the most of our mornings, we can use that time to do the things that energize us, invigorate us, and help us have a positive attitude before we begin to interact with the rest of the world.

But before we get into how to make the most of our mornings, we need to realize that it starts before we even wake up.

I suppose I always knew this, but I really started putting into practice when I took Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Mornings e-course last summer. I learned a lot of valuable tools from this 14-day course, but this one lesson was a game-changer.

I began using a “before bed ritual” as a way to mentally envision a productive morning, foreseeing little preparations that could set me up for success when my feet hit the floor in the am.

Here is my Before Bed Ritual that helps me have a successful morning:

Turn off phone. Studies have shown that screen time right before bed can keep you up longer, causing you to sleep in longer than intended when that alarm clock goes off the next morning. For me, this is the case. I actually keep my phone in another room entirely and use a traditional alarm clock near my bed so I am not tempted to surf the web while lying in bed.

Tidy the house, do the dishes, and wipe down counters. It stresses me out to wake up to a mess in the kitchen, and it makes it harder for me to prep my coffee and breakfast when the sink is full of dirty dishes. Having a clean kitchen, and even prepping the coffee before bed helps my mornings go smoothly the next day.

Brush teeth, wash face, and wipe down sink in bathroom. Multitasking is great in this area! While I’m in the bathroom getting ready for bed, I can swish some mouthwash and wipe down the sink/toilet/counter so it’s clean for tomorrow. This helps me maintain a semi-clean bathroom for a majority of the time, even when I don’t deep-clean.

Lay out clothes appropriate for the first task of the morning. Depending on the day, I am doing different things during the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes it’s jumping to work right after my quiet time. Other times is going out for a run or heading to the gym. Depending on my task at hand, I’ll set out nice clothes that will help me get into work mode, outdoor gear if I’m braving the weather outside for a jog, or some gym attire if I’m heading there. I prefer this to just getting up and starting the day in my pajamas. I find I am much more productive if I dress for the occasion, and picking out clothes the night before saves me time and helps me avoid making a decision when I’m not yet fully awake. If you find yourself having issues picking out your clothes even the night before, you wardrobe might be too expansive. Here’s some inspiration to practice minimalism in this area of your life!

Look over or make the next day’s to-do list. Most of the time the list is already written in my planner, but going over it before bed helps me anticipate the next day and get excited to accomplish my goals. Also, I can sleep better because I know when everything will get done; I don’t have to fret about when I’ll have time for such and such. I already know.

If I have time, read before hitting the lights. This is usually something enjoyable; it’s not usually the time for a heady informative book. Just some light reading to relax my brain and get ready for sleep. Here’s the book I’m currently reading: a classic minimalist choice!

The times of all of these little rituals change and shift based on when I need to get up in the morning and what time I get home from work or an evening event. But this is the general order I usually do things in so that I can be set up for a successful morning.

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Photo Credit: mintful.com

Now it’s your turn! What things do you need to do in order to have a stress-free and productive morning?  

Here are some points and questions to consider:

1.) This is the most important: Make sure to schedule in enough sleep. You can’t have a successful morning if you are falling asleep in your cereal. Personally, I like to get 8 hours of sleep; this doesn’t always happen, but it’s what I shoot for. If you have a fitbit or another activity monitor, you can track the quality your sleep. But over all, you need to go to bed on time.

2.) What stresses you out in the morning? For me, it’s a sink full of dirty dishes or a filthy bathroom mirror. For you it might be your pet’s feeding, or laundry on the bedroom floor. Whatever it is, try to incoorperate getting rid of these stressors before bed so you don’t have to deal with them in the morning.

3.) What can you do before bed so that you can save time in the morning for something more enjoyable? If you hate preparing breakfast, set up the crockpot with apple cinnamon oatmeal the night before, or make a batch of freezable breakfast burritos and take one out to thaw overnight. If things would go smoothly once you knew what you were going to wear, then pick out your clothes ahead of time like I do. You can even do this for the entire week, setting up outfits on hangers in your closet complete with accessories and shoes! I used to do this when I was a teacher and it saved me so much time in the mornings. You can use this time for something more enjoyable, which brings us to out next point of consideration…

4.) Think about what would make you want to get up in the morning.  I start each of my mornings off with a devotional and prayer time with God. I have a chair in my dining room already prepped with my bible, prayer list, and gratitude journal so I can go right to it as soon as I wake up. But what about you? If you love reading, spend some time in the morning reading something you enjoy. If you love running, then hop on the treadmill first thing in the am. If you like to bake, wake up early and bake something yummy for breakfast. Even if it’s only for 20 minutes, at least you will have made time for something you love and started out your day on a positive note.

Make preparations so that it is easy to go right to this activity, and get rid of any distractions that might take it’s place. For instance, if you want to spend time reading God’s word in the morning, but the kitchen is a mess, you might be tempted to start right in on cleaning it rather than beginning your day in prayer and study. This change of order might totally change the course of your day and your attitude. Do something that is live-giving first thing, and guard that time! It will make you get up out of that bed and be ready to give your best to the rest of the day! 

What are some of the things you can do before bed to make sure you have an amazing morning? I’d love to hear your ideas and input!

 

 

 

 

The Overachiever to the Complete Failure

measure successMeasuring Success isn’s easy, but I’m going to try my best to evaluate month to month by setting goals and evaluating my progress. If you missed out on my November goals, here’s the post. (They are also each listed below).

1.) Complete the 10 Hanger Project by only wearing clothes from a very limited wardrobe for the entire month.

Achieved. I think from my previous posts and one I’ll post this weekend, you can tell I’ve done fairly well with this particular goal. I wore only 10 items of clothing (not counting workout clothes) for the entire month of November. You can read about it here, here, and here.

2.) Be able to do a headstand without a spotter, and a handstand with a spotter by practicing with the #GrowWithTheFloat Yoga Challenge.

Complete Failure. I did not keep up with this challenge at all (on my Instagram account, you can see I only got up to day 6 or something). I didn’t make the time to practice and I think I may have been a little over-ambitious with estimating how quickly it would take me to master inversions. It’s still on my to-do list, but probably not for a monthly goal.

3.) Build upper body strength, hip and spine flexibility, and balance by completing the #BuildYourBird Yoga Challenge.

Complete Failure. I didn’t even do this challenge. Probably because I got discouraged by the first yoga challenge/failure.

4.) Come up with a meal planning system involving freezer cooking, using my crock pot, and strategic budgeting to save time and money in the kitchen.

Overachiever. I was able to do this very well. In October I took the Homemaking Ministries E-Conference and got lots of ideas for how to meal plan and prepare time-consuming dinners ahead of time in order to save time and make things last. I also was able to use this awesome planner to help me in menu planning and grocery shopping more efficiently. The reason I say “OVERachiever” is because I still have muffins, an entire meat loaf, half a lasagna, and a loaf of zuchinni bread in the freezer to have for this month!

5.) Stick to our family’s monthly budget by being wise in spending and planning ahead.

Sort of Achieved. I did go over in some areas due to poor planning on my part (I didn’t plan for entertaining and for Thanksgiving at the end of the month and so I wasn’t sucessful at keeping our grocery budget). But I didn’t spend any money on clothes and I only spent $10 at Starbucks– HUGE victories for this wannabe minimalist/ coffee addict.

6.) Perform a self-choreographed praise dance for my church family.

Achieved. I posted it on my facebook page; you can view it here.

7.) Complete the P90X3 program that I started at the beginning of the fall.

Achieved. This was a beast to get through (90 days is a long time!) but I’m very pleased with my results. I’m at my ideal weight, I can see way more definition in my upper body (something I was lacking before the program), my legs are even more defined, and I lost another inch around my waist. I was a little nervous that I’d loose my running endurance from doing just this program, but I ran 4 miles this morning without any trouble at all. I think Tony did a pretty good job of sneaking in cardio in new ways for this runner! P90X3 is a great at-home workout program if you’re interested in more muscular development and improved agility and strength.

8.) Finalize my bedtime and wakeup routine so that I can make the most of my mornings and get enough sleep.

In Progress… Working evenings as a fitness instructor makes me super wound up at night and I’m having a hard time going to bed at a decent hour. This will probably be an ongoing and developing goal until I figure out what this new routine should look like for this season of life.

9.) Complete my Cycle Certification with FitTour.

Overachiever. Not only did I get my Cycle Certification, but I also got my Advanced Yoga Certification. Maybe that makes up for not doing the yoga challenges?

10.) Find a local CSA to order from to save time and money, and also to be more supportive of local farmers and find ways to make seasonal and healthful cooking a priority for our family.

In Progress… I did find a great place to buy organic meat in bulk, but I am still in search of a CSA for other produce. If you have any suggestions that would work for a Chicagoain, I would apprecaite your comments. BTW, the place I found is called Zaycon Fresh (referral link). They have a particularly amazing deal on organic chicken breast that I plan on taking advantage of very soon!

Well folks, that’s how I did this past month on my goals. I’ll be posting my December goals early next week once I finalize them.

Feel free to share your goals in the comments below— we can all keep one another accountable that way!

The 10 Hanger Project Week Two: On Feelings, Re-Decorating, and Post-It Notes

There are only 2 more weeks left of November. Can you believe it? Who’s ready for Christmas? *raises hand*

I start with this fact because that means I am at the halfway point of my 10 Hanger Project. I originally had set out to go an entire month with only 10 hangers in my closet (and 7 workout items in my dresser). You can read about why I chose to do that here.

Last week I shared with you some of the things I have been learning during the first week of the project as well as some tips for whittling down your wardrobe.

Today I want to talk a little bit about how I’m feeling at this halfway point, and I can probably just sum it up in one word:

(You ready for this? Okay here it is…)

free

giveupSeriously y’all, I have never felt so free!

Free from the love of clothes, free from the countless combinations of what to wear, free from the worry of what others think of my clothes, free from the burden of choices in the morning…

To be honest, I am little anxious for December to come because I know I’ll have to take all of my clothes out of storage and…well, deal with them.

But really, this whole process has been really amazing because it simplifies my life so much.

This past weekend I was thinking about what I could do to encourage my future-self to donate a lot of the clothes I still have in storage. I want to hang on to this simplified kind of style, but I still would like to not have to do laundry multiple times a week. So I came up with a plan:

1.) I got 33 nice wooden hangers super cheap on amazon. (See why I chose 33 here).

2.) I rearranged my entire house (it’s small–don’t be too impressed) so that I no longer have my own dresser anymore, which significantly limits my drawer space.

3.) Posted-noted Hebrews 13:5-6* and 1 Timothy 2:9-11* all over my house (think War Room), and decided to practice the spiritual discipline of memorizing these verses of scripture to remind me to be content, self-controlled, free from the love of possessions, and acquiring an inward adornment rather than an outward one.

*Note: I used a combination of translations with the phrasing that spoke to me the most. Bible scholars, don’t hate– this is what works for me.

That last step is particularly important. I know all scripture to be God-inspired and profitable, and His word tells me that it will never return to Him void— so I know that His Word WILL have an effect on me. I am counting on it to transform my mind so that I do not fall back into the patterns of this world. These scriptures are also applicable to other areas in my life in which I need encouragement, but we’ll stick to the subject at hand for now.

The first two steps will be very helpful as well because they significantly limit the amount of space I have for clothing.

I won’t be able to just put the clothes back exactly where they hung or were folded up before– I’ll have to be choosey about which ones to keep and which ones to give away.

I plan on documenting all of this process when it happens in December, but I have to tell you, I am not exactly looking forward to it. I think it might overwhelm me to see so many clothes that I literally do not need. These two weeks have proven this fact– I do not need them!

things I actually need

I’m half tempted to just dump the entire lot of them and stick to these 10 hangers forever, but I don’t think these clothes I have now will work for when the seasons change or when someone gets married or if I can’t do laundry one week.

Still, I am hoping and praying that these last few weeks of the 10 Hanger Project will motivate me to maintain this detachment to clothes and simplistic approach to my wardrobe.

That is, after all, what this blog is mainly about— simplicity– minimalism– at least wannabe minimalism right?

Thanks again for walking with me through this journey. It’s pretty amazing what one random idea in the middle of the night will turn into over a month-long process.